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THE INVASION
U.S. Release Date: August 17, 2007
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Producer: Doug Davison (executive), Susan Downey (executive), Roy Lee (executive), Joel Silver
Composer: John Ottman
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam
Running Time: 1 hour and 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, disturbing images and terror)

Remake Replicates Decent Thrills
by Brandon Gray

Flawed in its conception and distracted by stylistic flourishes, The Invasion relies on the strength of its science fiction horror premise to deliver some solid thrills. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers storyline, in which humans are replaced by alien replicas, has worked to varying degree in 1956, 1978 and 1994 adaptations, but The Invasion doesn't rate as highly as those previous efforts. The new picture drops the plant pods and alien shrieks in favor of a transformative infection, though the aliens still get you in your sleep and many of the same story beats are followed.

The picture begins with a flash forward of a woman (Nicole Kidman) trying to stay awake, chugging pills and Mountain Dew. Then, action rewinds to a space shuttle crashing, its debris coated with alien cells resistant to extreme heat and cold. People who come in contact are taken over by the aliens, including the government official in charge of the investigation (Jeremy Northam), who also happens to be the Kidman character's ex-husband. Laden with camera and computer effects, this sequence spells out exactly what's occurring, robbing the picture of suspense.

Kidman plays a psychiatrist in Washington, D.C., who medicates her troubled but exuberant son (Jackson Bond), while Daniel Craig appears as a doctor friend smitten with her that she keeps at arm's length. Kidman begins to notice strange behavior, starting with a patient (Veronica Cartwright, who appeared in the 1978 version) who says her husband is not her husband. Soon aliens take over the world and news reports declare the achievement of peace and health care for everyone. Hope for humanity may or may not remain in a mumbling scientist (Jeffrey Wright) and Kidman's son, whose body has resisted the alien infection.

People becoming automatons may have had more impact if the picture developed the characters further before the takeover. There's a distance and coldness to the proceedings, in part because of Kidman's and Craig's screen personalities. The world of The Invasion is already sterile before the aliens invade, which may be the point: if everyone is complacent, would it be noticed if collectivist organisms replaced them? But the movie only hints at a society medicated through pills, news and government.

The Body Snatchers premise is an anti-collectivist view of the nature of humanity. The aliens develop the looks and have the memories of humans yet they aren't human, because each is a cog in a greater organism with no personal interest. The new version, though, adds ambiguity, seemingly siding with humanity and individuality but offering enough for a pro-collectivist interpretation, particularly with an ending that strays considerably from previous iterations.

To create its thrills, The Invasion relies on jump cuts and close-ups. The framing adds to the tension in some scenes but is spatially disorienting or incoherent and a sense of Washington, D.C. as a location is never established. The picture has this nasty habit of intercutting characters thinking or talking about what to do with them actually doing it. The intended effect seems to be to evoke a dream-like or semi-lucid state, but it comes off like the movie stopped and a trailer for the rest of it began.

Despite the problems, The Invasion's premise and competent presentation hatch a relatively eerie, exciting diversion.


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